4 out of 5
Label: Vision Recordings
Produced by: Amon Tobin, Thijs De Vlieger
Building on the spacey atmospherics of Dark Jovian, which flashes of ISAM-esque organics, Ithaca stops short of the latter masterpiece only because of its brief runtime, otherwise gathering the promise of Jovian and building and building and building upon it for quite a 20-minute journey through frightening wastelands.
Opener Departure is a fretful representation of the act – doors opening onto a black expanse; noises echoing beyond what your eyes can take in. It is immediately immersive, and hovers near a sense of awe that it purposefully never quite lets in, sinking the listener further into the anxiety of what we’ve departed toward, or in to. Followup Somewhere Else feels like a coda to that, accepting our arrival, and trying to come to terms with it. It’s patient, and a little less nervvy, but still expansive… Leading in to the alien warbles of Badlands, which hover between hopeful and fearful intonations, and then a distorted, muted beat – progress – if still halted by sudden walls of static here and there. This fittingly gives way to the rapturous Turning Point – a very ISAM-esque cavern of swooning noises and tones and, finally, some positivity, as we come to terms with our destination: Ithaca, the title track and closer, the inverse of Departure; surreality that feels in service to song, and discovery.
Yes, this is a downright journey; an aurally cinematic one, and the more you listen to it, the deeper and more heartfelt the ride can affect you, though it sincerely has an effect even from the first go-round. Again, though, I have to note: though this apparently took eight years of composition work between Thys and Amon, the result is pretty brief, and it’s almost that we’re brought to our conclusion still wanting – that this could have let its tracks drift well beyond the 5-minute mark, fleshing out the experience more fully.
The vinyl of this sounds great, but I would actually elect to listen to it digitally – it is meant to be a seamless set of tracks, and the break between A- and B-sides distills the effect of that.